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Kussai, chief of the Kureish1 tribe, was the ruler of Mecca,
and he gathered into the city his fellow-tribesmen. Apart
from the civil rights which conferred on him leadership in
war and jurisdiction in peace, Kussai held the keys of the
Kaaba, which gave him the prerogative of providing water
for the pilgrims. After his death and that of his eldest
son a feud broke out among his descendants. The elder
branch refused to share any of their privileges with the
younger, and for a while it seemed likely that the dispute
would be settled by the sword. The supporters of the
elder branch dipped their hands into a bowl of blood and
invoked the aid of the gods, and Hashim, the leader of
the younger, also swore an oath with much circumstance.
Ultimately it was decided that the custody of the keys
and the right of raising the war banner should be re-
tained by the elder branch, but that the younger should
provide the pilgrims with water and food.
As the years went by, Hashim, a striking personality,
acquired a great reputation for generous hospitality, and
in consequence he was envied by his nephew Omayya,!
who in vain attempted to rival him. At length Omayya*
challenged his uncle to a trial before a judge, who was to
pronounce upon the question of personal merit. Hashim
was forced by tribal opinion to take up the challenge, but
on the condition, demanded by him, that the loser should
pay fifty black-eyed camels and leave Mecca for ten years.
The decision was given in his favour, and Omayya quitted
Mecca for Syria, after handing over the fifty camels, which
were*slaughtered to make a feast. The incident is of im-
portance, because from it dates the rivalry between the
Omayyad and Hashimite factions, a rivalry destined to
bear baleful fruit. About A.D. 500 Hashim in mature
age married an heiress of Medina, and from this mar-
riage a son, Shiba, was born. Hashim died in A.D. 510,
and his prerogatives passed to his elder brother Al-Mut-
talib, who continued the family tradition of open-handed
Shiba was allowed,* to live for some years at Medina,
1 Kureish is believed to be derived from a word signifying a * highly-bred camel."
If this be correct, it is a curious coincidence that Zoroaster's name is supposed to have
an almost similar meaning. Vide Chapter IX,